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Are today's sculptors suffering a mine-is-bigger-than-yours malady?

“Cloud Arch” by Junya Ishigami
“Cloud Arch” by Junya Ishigami

The hustling main street of Sydney, Australia boasts a newly installed public artwork called “Cloud Arch” by Japanese sculptor Junya Ishigami that reaches the cloud-busting height of 164 feet.

Why so tall?

Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore is bent on changing the face of the city center and shine the international spotlight on Sydney. As he told the press, "The artworks selected by our expert evaluation panel will cement Sydney's reputation as a capital of culture and creativity. I have no doubt they will become iconic landmarks of our city for today and future generations."

Not everyone is as certain. Naysayers are calling the sculpture “stupid” and comparing it to either dental floss or a piece of spaghetti.

The Sydney Daily Telegraph teased, "Is Clover's head in the clouds?" A poll on the newspaper’s website suggested that the mayor’s endeavor was a wasted effort.

But “Cloud Arch” has its supporters, too. One Telegraph reader commented on the website, "At last something interesting and engaging in a city that is becoming so ugly due to all the greedy developers." And another Telegraph reader told the press, "I think it is brilliant. Well done Clover, love your work."

An additional public artwork is coming to the area - this one 50 feet tall by Egyptian-born artist Hany Armanious – that is being compared to an oversized milk crate.

Both sculptures were chosen from some 700 entries from 25 countries. And one wonders if Sydney’s criterion for public sculpture is tallness.

Not that city officials there are alone in the zeal for big. I’m thinking of British artist Mark Wallinger’s plan for a 170-foot-high white horse. No takers yet. No horse yet, either, but given the apparent trend in big sculpture, you know it’s coming.

And the only question remaining is which city will erect the biggest mountain in the name of art.

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